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  • Samaritan film review: The loosely-knit Sylvester Stallone-starrer is a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre (Spoilers)
Sylvestor Stallone in 'Samaritan' (Image via IMDb)

Samaritan film review: The loosely-knit Sylvester Stallone-starrer is a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre (Spoilers)

Sylvester Stallone's Samaritan might come off as just another superhero flick, but in the undercurrent, it is a commentary on how society expects the good to thrive and the evil to perish without understanding the subjective nature of the terms.

Directed by Julius Avery, Samaritan follows the story of 13-year-old Sam, who believes that his superhero, Samaritan, is alive despite theories of him and his brother Nemesis dying in a fire 25 years ago.

Pilou Asbaek and Moises Arias in the film (Image via IMDb)

The film begins with a comic walkthrough of the twin brothers who were despised by the people for their powers. However, unlike other superhero films, the respective nature and roots of these powers are hardly discussed in Samaritan.

While this could be a possible reason for the lack of resonance between the heroes and the viewers, an alternative explanation could also be that the film does not prioritize power, or perceive superheroes as linear beings incapable of anything beyond their powers.

The only significant piece of information disclosed about the brothers is that they lost their parents after their house was set on fire. This triggered two different responses in them: Consumed by vengeance, Nemesis resorted to anger and rage, while Samaritan tried to contain his brother's thirst for revenge and became the people's protector.


This is the premise of the latest superhero film, which was released on Amazon Prime Video on August 26.

Read on for a detailed review.

Samaritan doesn't endorse the politically correct superhero, but hardly leaves out politics either

How the film scores big when it comes to taking a political stance


Samaritan unfolds against the gloomy backdrop of Granite City - a place that seems to house those living on the fringes of society. Here, Nemesis is more of a revered figure than his brother, since people are able to resonate more with him. Nemesis' mark - that of his hammer pinned into 'N' - is imprinted across the city, and is even tattooed on the chest of a character named Cyrus.

A Joker-esque sequence follows when, after stealing Nemesis' mask and hammer, Cyrus invokes the downtrodden masses on the streets to loot shops and vandalize institutions to fulfill their needs. Face covers with the design of Nemesis' mask on them are distributed to people to propel them into action.

A scene from the film (Image via IMDb)

The film thus, takes a political stance in defining the subjectivity of the term superhero, and how people of different class, caste, creed, and religion have their own superheroes. It further highlights how ideologies are distorted and molded for an individual or group's benefit.


A humane superhero

The film is largely pegged around 13-year-old Sam's unwavering belief that Samaritan is alive.

Following the graphic introduction, the scene jumps to present day Granite City, where Sam is shown watching the news, which features an ongoing debate about the return of the Samaritan. Such is Sam's faith in his hero, that he eventually goes after a garbage man named Joe Smith after he suspects the latter to be Samaritan.

Joe does not don a cape, or even a costume. This is a 60-year-old garbage man who collects dumped objects and pawns them - a new profession that has none of the usual flair and glamour that is typical of MCU's superheroes.

Nor does the film offer any moment-of-reveal with enlightening, Marvel-esque music in the name of superheroes.

Joe is not looking for trouble, and does not miraculously appear when crisis arises. For instance, when Reza is about to break Sam's hand after the latter punches him to free his friend, there is a tinge of expectation that Joe might make an appearance. However, he does not.


Moments like these make Samaritan a humane superhero film.

The co-existence of good and evil is portrayed through the hues of orange and blue, each signifying Nemesis and Samaritan respectively.

In a world where brands like Marvel and DC have created a black and white binary between superheroes, Samaritan seems to be the first film close that inches closer to reality and highlights an oft-forgotten truth: Superheroes are humans too.

Samaritan's loosely-knit plot makes the wait for the ending unworthy

A progressive plot is not enough to run a film.

There are scenes in the film in which one can spot traces of Nemesis in Joe despite not being familiar with either his origin or the nature of his powers.


One such scene is where right after Joe is run over by a car, he starts steaming, literally, and rushes to the shower. He then explains to Sam that he needs water to cool him down, or else his heart will explode.

Even though fire is not explicitly used as Nemesis' source of power, the color orange (and blue for Samaritan) does the job in bridging the clues.

However, apart from the scenes that portray Joe's physical prowess, it is hard to deduce him as a superhero. The scenes where Joe is flexing his muscles are handled with little logic unless the script requires it. For instance, after Joe's accident he not only gets resurrected, but also twists and cracks his broken body back to normalcy, except that no one witnesses this apart from Sam.

However, in a scene where the world needs to know about Joe, his brawn powers are perfectly displayed to the extent that they conveniently land in the right place - on television.


Stallone's appearance of an aged man with tired eyes propels the idea of the humane superhero, but even the veteran actor fails to deliver the complex character he portrays and is unable to go beyond a confused, tooth-gritted expression.

Even though the film tries its best to conceal Joe's secret as Nemesis and keep it as the biggest reveal for the end, the loose editing contributes to the contrary.

Besides Sylvester Stallone, the film features Javon "Wanna" Walton as Sam Cleary, Pilou Asbaek as the notorious gangster Cyrus, Dascha Polanco as Sam's mother Tiffany, Moises Arias as Reza, Martin Starr as Albert Casier, Sophia Tatum as Cyrus' associate Sil, and Jared Odrick as Farshad.

Samaritan is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Edited by
Upasya Bhowal
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